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Coronavirus: Germany improves ventilation to chase away Covid

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media captionThe BBC's Jenny Hill explains how Germans are giving their love of fresh air a technical boost

The German government is investing €500m (£452m; $488m) in improving ventilation systems in public buildings to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The grants will go to improve the air circulation in public offices, museums, theatres, universities and schools. Private firms are not yet eligible.

Viruses spread on tiny droplets called aerosols, exhaled by infected people - especially when they sneeze or cough.

Studies suggest they can remain in a room's air for at least eight minutes.

Colder weather puts more people at risk because they spend more time indoors.

The main aim is to upgrade existing air conditioning systems, rather than install new ones, which costs more.

Each upgrade is eligible for a maximum of €100,000. Funding is also available for CO2 sensors which indicate when the air in a room is unhealthily stale. The grants will be allocated from Tuesday.

The government also wants schools lacking central air conditioning systems to at least get mobile air purifiers. But much will also depend on how easily rooms can be ventilated simply by opening the windows.

The Bavarian broadcaster BR24 reports that the mobile ventilators, which filter out tiny particles and cost from €2,000 each, can effectively purify a room within minutes.

But German experts say apparatus that relies on UV-light, ionisation or ozone can be ineffective against coronavirus, and in some cases worsen the air quality.

More on coronavirus:

  • How new lockdowns are changing life across Europe
  • Five ways to avoid catching coronavirus indoors
  • French cities start month-long Covid curfew

According to Germany's latest official figures, 4,325 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, but Monday's figure is usually lower as fewer cases are reported at the weekend. The reported German death toll is 9,789.

The infection rate has risen across Germany in recent weeks, but the surge is more marked in some neighbouring countries, notably the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.

Germans love open windows more than ever

Many Germans are a bit bemused that their relationship with fresh air has provoked such curiosity in Britain of late. Why, after all, wouldn't you fling your windows wide open each morning to create a nice healthy draught?

Fresh air has, for a while now, been seen as a key to dealing with coronavirus too. L for Luft (air) was recently added to A for Abstand (distance), H for Hygiene and A for Alltagsmaske (mask) - the official government directives on how to live in corona times.

So choirs rehearse in rooms open to the elements. Train windows are cranked open. Diners are still being served outdoors at many establishments, prompting a national ethical debate over patio heaters.

But, as the air turns sharper and colder, it is education ministers who are feeling the chill. It has been mooted - not always in jest - that children should attend lessons wrapped in coats, gloves, hats and perhaps a duvet, prompting fury among teachers.

And many German classrooms, in poor repair after prolonged underinvestment, simply do not have windows that open. German engineers are on the case though. I recently visited a company which usually manufactures heating and ventilation systems. It has now created an air filtration system designed with windowless classrooms in mind.

There are widespread fears that the new coronavirus wave will only intensify as the weather gets colder in Europe and more people share confined spaces. Windows will stay shut longer to keep out cold draughts.

Virus particles also survive longer when they are not exposed to direct heat and sunlight. The cool air in abattoirs is reckoned to have contributed to several Covid-19 outbreaks in Germany in recent months.

media captionWatch how germs spread and how you can prevent it

The tiny droplets that carry the virus can not only remain suspended in the air for more than eight minutes, they can also travel several metres.

The German government's advice is to open windows for at least five minutes every hour, for example during class changeovers in schools.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive also recommends fans to dissipate pockets of stale air in rooms and using a fresh air supply, instead of just recirculating air through the air conditioning system.

data in detail

Scroll table to see more data

*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 261,082 79.8 12,720,803
Brazil 170,769 81.5 6,166,606
India 135,223 10.0 9,266,705
Mexico 103,597 82.1 1,070,487
UK 56,533 84.2 1,557,007
Italy 52,028 85.8 1,480,874
France 50,237 77.3 2,153,815
Iran 46,207 56.5 894,385
Spain 44,037 94.3 1,605,066
Argentina 37,714 85.0 1,390,388
Russia 37,173 25.5 2,144,229
Colombia 35,860 72.2 1,270,991
Peru 35,685 111.6 952,439
South Africa 21,201 36.7 775,502
Indonesia 16,225 6.1 511,836
Belgium 16,077 140.0 564,967
Germany 15,210 18.3 995,879
Chile 15,138 80.8 544,092
Poland 14,988 39.5 924,422
Ecuador 13,288 77.8 187,230
Turkey 12,840 15.6 467,730
Iraq 12,086 31.4 542,187
Ukraine 12,082 27.3 695,463
Canada 11,733 31.6 350,971
Romania 10,541 54.0 440,344
Netherlands 9,112 53.4 498,814
Bolivia 8,933 78.7 144,276
Philippines 8,215 7.7 422,915
Pakistan 7,843 3.7 386,198
Czech Republic 7,633 71.6 507,549
Egypt 6,585 6.7 114,107
Sweden 6,555 65.7 230,514
Bangladesh 6,487 4.0 454,146
Saudi Arabia 5,825 17.3 356,067
Morocco 5,539 15.4 336,506
China 4,742 0.3 92,402
Switzerland 4,393 51.5 309,469
Portugal 4,127 40.2 274,011
Hungary 4,114 42.4 185,687
Guatemala 4,107 23.8 119,989
Bulgaria 3,367 47.7 133,060
Panama 3,002 71.9 158,532
Tunisia 2,983 25.8 91,307
Honduras 2,888 30.1 106,116
Israel 2,826 33.7 332,317
Austria 2,667 30.0 260,512
Jordan 2,442 24.5 198,021
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,429 73.1 83,328
Algeria 2,329 5.5 78,025
Dominican Republic 2,315 21.8 139,396
Moldova 2,209 54.5 101,203
Armenia 2,040 69.1 129,085
Ireland 2,033 42.2 71,187
Kazakhstan 1,990 10.9 128,400
Japan 1,983 1.6 138,457
Greece 1,902 18.1 97,288
Myanmar 1,810 3.4 83,566
Afghanistan 1,737 4.7 45,716
Paraguay 1,691 24.3 78,878
Costa Rica 1,674 33.5 134,520
Ethiopia 1,664 1.5 107,109
North Macedonia 1,600 76.8 57,451
Croatia 1,501 36.1 111,617
Kenya 1,417 2.8 79,322
Oman 1,391 28.8 122,579
Nepal 1,389 4.9 226,026
Serbia 1,315 18.8 140,608
Kyrgyzstan 1,251 19.8 71,171
Azerbaijan 1,224 12.3 102,396
Sudan 1,210 2.9 16,649
Slovenia 1,199 57.7 69,306
Nigeria 1,169 0.6 66,805
Libya 1,125 16.8 79,797
Georgia 1,124 28.1 118,690
Belarus 1,119 11.8 128,449
El Salvador 1,086 16.9 37,884
Lebanon 950 13.8 120,341
Kosovo 948 51.4 36,253
Australia 907 3.6 27,864
Venezuela 880 3.0 100,817
Kuwait 871 21.1 141,217
Denmark 802 13.9 74,204
Albania 743 25.8 34,944
Slovakia 732 13.4 99,304
Palestinian Territories 665 13.7 76,727
Yemen 611 2.1 2,124
Uzbekistan 606 1.9 72,227
United Arab Emirates 563 5.8 162,662
South Korea 515 1.0 32,318
Montenegro 459 73.1 32,808
Cameroon 437 1.7 23,915
Lithuania 432 15.4 51,655
Syria 391 2.3 7,459
Finland 388 7.0 22,652
Zambia 357 2.1 17,535
Malaysia 345 1.1 59,817
Bahrain 340 21.7 86,185
Angola 340 1.1 14,821
Senegal 331 2.1 15,927
DR Congo 331 0.4 12,365
Ghana 323 1.1 51,225
Norway 316 5.9 34,268
Luxembourg 288 47.7 32,100
Zimbabwe 274 1.9 9,508
Madagascar 251 1.0 17,341
Jamaica 247 8.4 10,488
Qatar 237 8.5 137,851
Haiti 232 2.1 9,248
Uganda 191 0.4 18,890
Malawi 185 1.0 6,018
Latvia 184 9.5 14,273
Mauritania 171 3.9 8,246
Bahamas 163 42.3 7,469
Nicaragua 160 2.5 5,784
Guadeloupe 149 37.3 8,344
Mali 148 0.8 4,461
Guyana 147 18.9 5,236
Namibia 145 5.9 14,006
Cuba 133 1.2 8,026
Ivory Coast 131 0.5 21,168
Belize 129 33.7 5,423
Mozambique 128 0.4 15,302
Gambia 123 5.4 3,727
Malta 122 27.8 9,253
Eswatini 120 10.6 6,272
Suriname 117 20.3 5,305
Trinidad and Tobago 116 8.3 6,503
Somalia 113 0.8 4,445
Cape Verde 104 19.1 10,526
Chad 101 0.7 1,655
Estonia 97 7.3 10,541
Sri Lanka 96 0.5 21,469
Congo 93 1.8 5,632
Tajikistan 86 0.9 12,008
Equatorial Guinea 85 6.5 5,137
Liberia 83 1.7 1,578
Guinea 76 0.6 12,929
Andorra 76 98.7 6,428
Sierra Leone 74 1.0 2,408
Uruguay 73 2.1 4,988
French Polynesia 70 25.2 13,783
French Guiana 70 24.7 11,116
Niger 70 0.3 1,419
Burkina Faso 68 0.3 2,777
Togo 64 0.8 2,889
Central African Republic 63 1.4 4,911
Djibouti 61 6.4 5,670
South Sudan 61 0.6 3,073
Thailand 60 0.1 3,942
Gabon 59 2.8 9,173
Mayotte 49 18.9 5,181
Channel Islands 48 28.2 1,147
Cyprus 47 4.0 9,453
Rwanda 47 0.4 5,779
Maldives 46 8.9 12,854
Aruba 45 42.5 4,778
Lesotho 44 2.1 2,092
San Marino 44 130.2 1,492
Benin 43 0.4 2,974
Guinea-Bissau 43 2.3 2,422
Martinique 40 10.6 5,413
Réunion 39 4.4 7,836
Vietnam 35 0.0 1,321
Botswana 31 1.4 9,992
Singapore 28 0.5 58,190
Iceland 26 7.7 5,312
New Zealand 25 0.5 2,040
Saint Martin 25 67.1 1,036
Isle of Man 25 29.7 369
Tanzania 21 0.0 509
Sao Tome and Principe 17 8.1 982
Liechtenstein 14 36.9 1,183
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Mauritius 10 0.8 497
Bermuda 9 14.3 239
Papua New Guinea 7 0.1 645
Taiwan 7 0.0 623
Comoros 7 0.8 607
Barbados 7 2.4 263
Turks and Caicos Islands 6 15.9 746
Gibraltar 5 14.8 991
Antigua and Barbuda 4 4.2 140
Curaçao 3 1.8 1,929
Monaco 3 7.8 594
Brunei 3 0.7 150
Cayman Islands 2 3.1 269
Saint Lucia 2 1.1 235
Fiji 2 0.2 38
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Burundi 1 0.0 673
British Virgin Islands 1 3.4 71
Montserrat 1 20.0 13
Western Sahara 1 0.2 10
Mongolia 0 0.0 712
Eritrea 0 0.0 558
Faroe Islands 0 0.0 500
Bhutan 0 0.0 386
Cambodia 0 0.0 307
Seychelles 0 0.0 166
Saint Barthelemy 0 0.0 127
St Vincent and the Grenadines 0 0.0 84
Dominica 0 0.0 77
Grenada 0 0.0 41
New Caledonia 0 0.0 32
Timor-Leste 0 0.0 30
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Laos 0 0.0 25
Saint Kitts and Nevis 0 0.0 22
Greenland 0 0.0 18
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 17
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 16
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 16
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 4
Anguilla 0 0.0 4
Vanuatu 0 0.0 1

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This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies and UN population data

Figures last updated: 26 November 2020, 08:34 GMT

Related Topics

  • Germany
  • Coronavirus lockdown measures

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  • Coronavirus: Watch how germs spread